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Tigers' top prospect Casey Mize 'making progress as planned' after injury

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — If you were listening closely enough, you probably could've heard the collective, "Whew," all the way in Corktown.

Casey Mize's injury looked bad, really bad, at first, given the mid-80s velocity and his catcher racing out to the mound — followed by the Tigers' top pitching prospect exiting the game and the Erie SeaWolves closing the locker room to postgame media.

Tigers prospect Casey Mize is on the mend after exiting a June 13 start due to "shoulder soreness."

But Mize is on the mend, having thrown three innings and 46 pitches in Lakeland, Fla., this week. His velocity was up to 94 mph, general manager Al Avila said Friday.

"He's making progress as planned and so far, so good," Avila said. "No issues there with him."

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Mize, 22, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, had taken the minor leagues by storm this season, especially at Double-A Erie, where his first appearance was a no-hitter.

After a brief stint at Single-A Lakeland, Mize made nine starts at Erie, where his ERA was 1.21 and he struck out 50 in 52 innings.

But Mize, a right-hander out of Auburn, left in the third inning of a start on June 13. Video of his dead arm quickly hit social media, and sent the Tigers faithful into panic mode.

Count Avila and his staff among those. They were watching the game on an iPad at Comerica Park when Mize left the game.

"David Chadd (assistant general manager) and I were right here," Avila said. "It was not fun that day. It was like, 'Oh my God, what happened?' You saw the velocity, and the catcher coming out, you're going, 'What is going on?'"

Avila quickly got on the phone with personnel at Erie, and before long, the official diagnosis was in.

It was minor inflammation in his throwing shoulder.

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"It's something most pitchers go through, you need some rest," Avila said. "It might be a godsend, hold back some innings for him now.

"The hope is, he gets back to Erie and gets back to normal."

Mize was a long shot to pitch in Detroit this season, despite many experts saying his stuff was more than major-league ready.

But the non-contending Tigers don't need him this year, so there's no sense starting his free-agency clock early.

When he gets back to Erie, the Tigers will restart their own clock.

Mize's next outing is scheduled for Wednesday in Lakeland. The hope is he goes at least four innings and/or 60 pitches.

Mize is widely considered the Tigers' top prospect by most ranking services. He's one of several acclaimed pitching prospects in the system, along with Matt Manning, Beau Burrows, Alex Faedo, Kyle Funkhouser and Franklin Perez, though Perez continues to deal with nagging injuries.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984